Friday, October 31, 2008

My First Full On Charette

I attended my first LEED design charette this past Wednesday, but first a little on the word "charette".

To me the word sounds exotic and exclusive that members of the French and Russian aristocracy would attend. A big ballroom filled with men in semi military dress uniforms twirling around women in whalebone corsets and hoop dresses.

Imagined Charette Image:

Real Charette Image:

While studying for my LEED exam, I got a slightly better idea what goes into a charrete. No corsets, but lots of architects, engineers, designers and energy modelers going through a proposed design and seeing which LEED points might be achieved and what problems might arise.

This is the missing piece. I realized that what I'd missed the most since ditching theatre for green buiding was a good collaborative process. I am indeed heartened.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Laura's New Green Obsession

The "Forever Lawn", a fake grass product that has probably had it's website crash multiple times since it was featured in a photo spread of Jessica Alba's new green home is my wife, Laura's new obsession.

Neither one of us are lawn people. Aside from making our house look freakishly odd in the middle of winter and effecting the resale value of our house, I'm down.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sustanable (and cheap) Temporary Business Cards

Saw this online from a printer in North Carolina.

Great idea and beautifully executed with soy ink. Got a quote from them and was amazed. Maybe when I can put LEED AP after my name I'll treat myself. In the meantime, I needed some temporary cards for networking, interviews etc. and it seems like a waste to get 500 cheapo cards that I hate.

I cut up a PBR box I'd just gotten done with, cut it into two 8 1/2X11 sheets, formatted my info onto a twelve-up template and shoved them through my printer. If you're doing this at home, your printer won't want to do it, but it will surrender to your will if you jam it in enough. Read into that as you will.

I measured the finished product out, made some pencil marks and Laura cut them neatly out. The finished product has roughly the thickness of a credit card and they feel like you can cut salami with the edges. They're distinctive though, I must say. Next time I'll try it with the Raisin Bran box I'm about to polish off.

Green Drinks

Went to Green Drinks last night at Schlafly Bottleworks. Not only was it a networking event that involved green job opportunities and beer I could walk to it from my house!

It was a great opportunity for me to meet some to the people in St. Louis who are doing interesting work in green building and energy management. I don't know the blogging ethics on naming names and describing conversations had in semi-public private events like networking events, so instead I'll just provide you with some clever campaign t-shirts for sale through Schlafly!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Oh Gray Lady

New York Times article today by Clifford Krauss Momentum Slows for Alternative Energy. My response is this:

Cliff, dude, momentum has slowed down for EVERYTHING. Unless you work in the repo, forclosure or hobo-bindle manufacturing sector, things are bad all around.

Speech On Saturday

Like roughtly 100,000 other people, I went down to the arch to hear Barack Obama speak on Saturday. I have a terrible sense of the national impact of events I'm part of (I famously thought that I had till the 6:00 news before word got out about the towers falling) and this was no exception.

I haven't attended an event that large in a long time and I forgot how much difference it makes being at a live event. While watching on the news would have given me a much better view, it was just incredible to see that many people. I was so far away that I spent a lot of the time helping out my neighbors pick out which one Obama was "see the lights, go down 45 degrees, he's in a white shirt". Here, I'll show you:

See him?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Home Energy Ratings

I recently had breakfast with a local real estate professional who was good enough to sit down and give me a little insight into the state of commercial building in St. Louis (he also insisted on expensing the breakfast, thanks ####### LLC!). When the subject moved towards green building he said that on his end there needed to be a bunch more incentives in order for the industry to go that way. As a developer, the numbers just didn't add up.

He's partially right, there do need to be more incentives to make sustainable building compete in the market. The part he left out is that legislation is the other way it can happen. This from Green Building Law Update

Beginning in 2010, it would require commercial property owners to generate an Energy Star efficiency "score" for their buildings using free online tools provided by the Energy Star program. That score would be made available to the public by the District Department of the Environment (DDOE).

This is for DC, Clayton Missouri (St. Louis County seat) just passed that all new government buildings are to be LEED rated. I like the idea of a commercial building having the equivalent of a new car EPA mileage sticker.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dirty Renewables

One of the stranger conceits of architectural design models are the two dimentional people that are put in a proposed space. They're generic models that walk through the middle of huge piazzas and tie their children's shoes on glass bridges that span buildings etc. They always seem like an afterthought and even though they're supposed to evoke human interaction with a space, it always rings false for me no matter how well a building is designed.

What makes this particular design stand out from others proposed renewable designs that I've come across are two things. One, the roof is clad in recycled rubber, and two, the people interacting with the space are doing very dirty things to one another.

Crazy Sexy Water Harvesting

As part of their monthly speakers series, the St. Louis Chapter of the Green Building Council had a presentation on water harvesting by Joe Scott CPD of Cannon Design.

I was extremely impressed by Mr. Scott's presentational abilities. While there was a mike in place, he opted to boom out his voice to the sixty or so people in the room and really sell the importance of water concervation and harvesting from the plumbing designers perspective. Believe me, I know from good speaking, this guy had some chops.

Highlights included an explanation of a new type of roof drainage system that actually siphens the water off of your roof like a great big hoover instead of using gravity.

-No need to tilt a roof
-No need to angle drainage pipes (no whacking into venting systems etc.)
-2" instead of 6" pipes used (much, much cheaper)

-Must be designed by an engineer
-Probably godawful expensive

Mr. Scott also gave his $.02 about water concerving shower heads. I'd have never thought about this: since the water gets aerated in the shower head to give the illusion of greater water flow and is usually coupled with the energy concervation tactic of lowering water temp to 115F, it creates the perfect petri dish for Legionaire's Disease. He designs a lot of systems for hospitals and labs, so this is a real concern. There's a bunch of places to concerve and reuse water, but in his mind, it's not the shower.

This was my first time attending a local USGBC event since joining and I was very impressed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What I Did In College

While most people were studying in libraries and attending large lectures, I was crawling around on wooden floors and messing with some Danish dude's Balinese masks. It's been difficult to point to something out there that demonstrates the kind of stuff that I spent hours and hours learning....UNTIL NOW!

Green Porno, is a series of short films written and directed by Isabella Rossalini. In it she plays common insects and arachnids and acts out their mating rituals, usually by humping soft sculptures. It's a pretty good example of the kind of stuff that would come out of the Experimental Theatre Wing at NYU. Take a look at a few of them and you'll understand why I get wierded out by NOTHING!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

$100,000 House For Only $265,000

I've been looking at the 100K house project lately. The idea is pretty interesting: build an approximately 1000 square foot green home in Phillie for a hundred thousand dollars in construction costs. It satisfies both my love of green building and penchent for round numbers. Unfortunately it's as misleading as the initial description of the Titanic as "unsinkable".

The hundred grand only covers the construction costs, the land, permits, architect etc. is extra. It makes for a bit of a disconnect when you try to sell the 100K house for about two and a half times the price.

Check it out:

REALLY Affordable Modular Housing

I've been thinking about messing with containers for about five years now. For a long time I've wanted to make a Container Bar, a series of contiguous lounges and bars made from old shipping containers. This guy made something a whole lot cooler

Check this baby out:

This is a 320 square foot home made out of a shipping container. The company that makes it PFNC which stands for Por Fin Nuestra Casa (finally our own home) which will make houses for Juarez factory workers who are currently living in housing they've fashioned out of palletts and cardboard. While they're not exactly the most glamorous thing I've ever seen, they've got a full kitchen, bathroom, shower HVAC and at about eight grand a pop, they're pretty affordable.

Here, lets to a little side by side comparison to the other type of housing I hope never to live in: the FEMA Trailer.

FEMA: $15,000
PFNC: $8,000

Square Footage:
FEMA: 240
PFNC: 320

FEMA: Two Adults, Two Children
PFNC: Two Adults, Four Children

I'm most definitely making some pretty apples to oranges comparisons since the site is vague on whether the cost includes estimated electrical, water and waste hookups and the fact that the PFNC residence doesn't have any insulation (it has to be horrifically loud in there).

In the end though, the PFNC model does a great job of repurposing the abundant world supply of shipping containers which are available one every corner of the globe and can fit on ships, trains and trucks. The real cool stuff will be to see how these will be customized by the end user.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Google SketchUp

I've recently become aware of Google's SketchUp program, a free downloadable program that allows you to draw 3-D images and play around with them endlessly. I've had a bunch of ideas for what I'd like to do to the house, and I've decided to just go ahead and draw them out on SketchUp. That said, it's immensely addictive and I've started to rotate objects on my desk around in my mind.

Here's what I came up with in my first 20 minutes of goofing around:

Why, at that rate, I will only take me 250 hours to draw my house!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

My Most Recent Obsession

I've been intrigued with what's going on with prefab lately. I've also been kicking myself in the butt for the last three weeks because I didn't go and see Moma's Home Delivery Exhibit while I was in New York and had the chance.

I was happy to find out recently though that one of my favorite innovators in this field, Rocio Romero actually lives in Missouri and will be in St. Louis on the 23rd. I don't know too much about her (I actually just figured out she was a she just days ago) except that her designs are inexpensive and she's actually been able to sell a bunch of them. Here, check it out

Basically, you provide the foundation and the house gets trucked to you in pieces, it gets put together in about a day, you finish the sucker and voila, you got a house! I'm pretty positive that it's a lot more complicated than that, which is precicely what I indend to find out when she's in town.